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October 31, 2008

Trick or Treat

I was asked by a client recently if I could provide some sales training to a somewhat seasoned salesforce. While I was not really conscious of it at the time, I think what was going around in my head like a mantra warning was the saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”.

No More Tricks 2

It is important to disclose that I spent the first half of my career in the training business of one shape or another. But I got frustrated in that profession because I learned that too many problems could not be addressed through training as a sole solution, but often I was forced into that situation.

Tonight my doorbell will ring and on my doorstep will be spooks and goblins in search of Kit Kat bars and Reese’s cups. Just prior to arriving at my house the 11 year old who presses my doorbell will have transformed into Spiderman. But, at the end of the night with a bag full of candy, Spiderman will transform back into the 11 year old. The change was superficial, just a costume to serve the purpose of collecting on the annual promise of free processed sugar.

Too many of the training programs I ran in the past served only the purpose of a superficial attempt at skill upgrading. The training session at best gave the participants a costume to wear briefly, then they changed back to their old selves.

Sales people cannot be expected to improve their effectiveness by wearing the costume of the sales methodology du jour. For sales effectiveness to serve up to its namesake a broader intervention is needed. Skills and knowledge are only a piece of the puzzle. The other factors that have to be included are processes, policies, management attitudes, organizational culture, enabling technology, and a bit of good timing and luck.

To accomplish an improvement in the effectiveness of the salesforce requires attending to all these variables, which just can’t be accomplished within the neat package of a training seminar. In combination, however, with attention to these other factors, the training program can be a great catalyst, energizer, focal point for communication, and a place to demonstrate the necessary management support.

Don’t eat all that kind all at once.

October 24, 2008


Patriot Act

Confession – I learned this week that I am a bad fan, a scoundrel of the worst kind. After two very embarrassing losses I had written off last year’s almost perfect team. I was ready to switch my focus to basketball for the rest of the fall and impending winter. Then, something happened.

During that primetime-first-night-of-the-work-week game between the almost perfect team and the stallions who normally play at 5000 feet above sea level a miracle happened. The team who normally plays at sea level performed incredibly well, even with their leader out on the west coast enduring an unsuccessful knee surgery. And I was really pumped

So, I feel pretty shallow. My loyalty is based on winning. What a scoundrel.

My question to you is how many of your customers are shallow like me. Are they good customers if you give them a discount (the business equivalent of a win)? Do they root for a different team when the discounts disappear?

When I was a kid I grew up a Cubs fan. Winning was an unexpected treat. However, I was extremely loyal and remain a dedicated fan today, 800 miles away. Why so much loyalty in the face of such adversity?

There is quite a bit of research that shows that brand loyalty is highly influenced by whether the individual can identify with the brand – how well the product fits with how the individual views him or herself. I identified with the Cubs. WGN was my everyday channel before it became a superstation. The Cubs were the guys I watched on TV or if I got on the YMCA bus with a tuna fish sandwich and watched the game at Wrigley. Ernie Banks was a good guy, as I aspired to be. When I got older the idea of quaffing an Old Style while watching the Northsiders was as cool as it could get.

Well, I guess the more important question is whether your customers identify with your brand, if they do business with you because you fit with their self image? Don’t laugh – statistics don’t lie.

But I did not set out to write this entry to discuss loyalty and personal identification. I want to raise the newly discovered connection between loyalty and social media. While the stuff out on this connection is fairly recent, it appears that this has legs. I think it is the equivalent of being a more loyal fan because you often watch the game at the local watering hole where everybody has a C on their cap. You are a part of something bigger.

Everybody seems to be jumping on the social media band wagon. It is certainly a topic that is getting a lot of press. I would like to get more direct experience with it to be in a position to provide more point-of-view. But, I do think this is worthy of getting a lot of attention.
Just to get back to the whole identification thing – I suspect part of the power of social networking relative to a product is connected to identifying with that brand. More connections cause more identification. It is just a hunch. Stay tuned.

Next year Cubs fans.

October 17, 2008

Inside Out

Here is a shocking discovery.

About twice as many organizations report improvements when deploying SFA for inside sales teams than those that find improvements when deploying SFA to field sales. This news is according to some recently published research from experts in sales effectiveness. Further, this study also identifies that adoption is higher with inside sales versus field sales and wider spread in terms of overall deployments

Of course the obvious reason for these differences is that inside sales folks are strapped to a desk with butts glued to chairs and headphones plugged directly into the SFA tool. Field sales people, cowboys and cowgirls that they are, run wild in the field hopping from taxi to plane to conference room and then get into the hotel just in time for last call. Who has time to fill out all those drop down boxes on the computer screen?

But I don’t think the obvious reason fully answers the question. I think SFA works better for inside sales for two much more important reasons. #1 – SFA has been built for the inside sales work process. #2 – inside sales teams are managed much more strictly with the discipline required for SFA to be adopted and to work.

SFA can and does work for the field, under the right circumstances. Success comes from attending to those two items in the paragraph above. First, you have to build your SFA system to work the way field folks work. And, you have to allow them to do the work in the field, which probably means a hand held. Second, you have to hold them accountable for using the tool correctly. If reps in the field can get away with not using a tool that makes them perform extra administrative tasks, they are going to do as little as they can. Sorry if this offends anyone. Accountability is the only option for driving compliance.

Inside Out

Now, the question you should ask is, what about the whole WIFM thing – what is in it for me? Is there a difference between inside and the field with that? I think there is but it is subtle. Inside sales reps are aided by the SFA tool – it enables them to perform their jobs with greater ease. In fact, they probably could not do what they do without it. The extra boxes they enter data into in order to satisfy marketing and sales management is not that big of a deal.

On the other hand, the chances that the field feels punished by SFA versus rewarded by it are very high. We make them enter data on their down time when they should be helping their kids with homework. We ask them to capture information that is no benefit to them. Plus, their perception is that the more information they enter the greater the likelihood that it will somehow be used to hurt them.

If you want your field force to use SFA and improve performance with it, they have to experience a benefit. It can’t be theoretical, and it can’t be for the company. It has to be a personal, real, and perceived benefit.

So, wondering why things are going well inside and not so well outside? Don’t assume that because it works for one group it will work the same for the other. The field needs extra attention any way. Giving them an SFA tool that is optimized for the inside team is a sure fire recipe for disaster. These tools come out of the box designed for folks on the phone. Put in the extra effort to make it work in the field and you will help change those statistics from the latest study.

October 10, 2008


A recent prognostication from a reputable source put the CRM new software acquisition market at 50% on premise and 50% hosted parity as early as next year. I think it is safe to say that SaaS is here to stay.

One of the changes that this transition to rented software brings is a shortened time frame and corresponding reduced cost for getting the technology up and running. Certainly this has much to do with the rapid expansion of market share. Let’s face it, the SaaS value proposition can be attractive.

The allure of hosted software with the ease of entry into world class CRM is also shrouded in a significant myth that can lure programs like a siren on the rocks into a treacherous situation. This myth involves the assumption that, because the software is cheaper and takes less time to implement, then it is OK for other corners to be cut as well. These corners, mostly organizational in nature, can make or break a program – leading a good business case into a disastrous loss.

There are a set of Critical Success Factors for CRM programs that apply to both large on-premise deployments as well as the small hosted variety. Ignoring them due to the belief that they only apply to big-time CRM is the current SaaS fallacy that is tripping up many would be new-comers to the CRM party.

If you are entertaining the idea of taking on SF.com, Siebel OnDemand, NetSuite or Microsoft Dynamics take a serious look at the list of CSFs below. Ignoring them may turn a sweet deal into sour even faster than the promised benefits.

Rock Baby

Clearly Defined CRM Direction
End state with associated business benefits
A logical path toward the end state
Strong Management Sponsorship
Alignment between CRM and management objectives
Accountability for CRM success
Real attention to managing change
Focus on user adoption
Adequate resources to build user capability
Program Management and Governance
Use of project management best practices and oversight
Program design utilizing contained, realistic project phases
Measurement of Program Effectiveness
KPIs that monitor attainment of capabilities
Metrics that quantify attainment of targeted outcomes
Optimization of the Program Post-implementation
Follow through of action based on measurements
Enhance the processes and technology to improve effectiveness

Attending to these six CRM Critical Success Factors will take extra effort within your CRM program. But they serve as the difference makers between which programs are successful and which programs become statistics for the analyst firms.

Stay clear of those rocks, baby!

October 03, 2008

Batten The Hatches

Who saw this coming? Actually, I know the answer, but I still feel compelled to ask the question. Nobody could talk about the impending financial crisis until it finally became a reality otherwise the forecast of it happening would have sped up its arrival. It still feels strange that this came about at the speed it hit us.

So, now what do we do? We suspect there is a storm ahead so we pull back and spend as cautiously as we can. The collective pulling back seals the deal and we have a self-fulfilling prophesy in the making.

Out at sea when the storm rolls in, the tendency is to tie everything down, close everything up, and ride out the weather. But, the batten-the-hatches approach to your CRM program can be exactly the wrong thing to do. Back during the Great Depression, a notable office machines company took a different approach than everyone else. Rather than laying off the salesforce since nobody was going to buy a typewriter during such a bad financial situation, they actually expanded their salesforce in order to increase the chances of finding buyers.

This company did not just ride out the storm, it surfed the waves that the storm whipped up. When you tie everything down and shut every opening on the boat, you can no longer fish. CRM is about fishing on steroids. Don’t cut the budget for your CRM program. Don’t scale back the training for SFA. Don’t kill the funding for that campaign automation. These are the exact things you need right now.

It is easy to watch cable news because I spend so much time in hotel rooms – the TV is the portal outside my little home away from home. Right now I keep hearing and seeing the word fear to describe what is going on with the markets and the traders. The thinking is that fear as an emotion is going to drive what happens next.

What I know about fear comes from years spent as an alpine skiing instructor. When a skier, at the top of a bumpy slope lined with aspens, looks down the hill and experiences fear, the next thing that happens is going to be a yard sale. Goggles, mittens, skis, hats, poles, and granola bars are going to be spread all over the moguls in the wake of a skier on the way toward an appointment with a tree.

Don’t let fear drive your CRM program governance. Keep on the course toward your targeted outcomes. Pulling back now will ensure that you hit the tree. Don’t tie everything down just to get through the rough seas – you have to keep fishing. If your competition keeps fishing while you are battened down, they are going to end up with your catch.

Tree Wrecked